Independence Day is associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, picnics and baseball games, but the day holds an even greater meaning for the patriotic among us. It is after all, the official date of our country’s independence and serves as a symbol of freedom and a reminder of all we have to be thankful for. No one is more appreciative of apple pie and a good hot dog than I, but this year, I decided to go a step further. Mrs. Winston and I have organized the first ever (in our neighborhood) 4th of July sing-a-long. We gathered the best singers from our kids’ schools and created “The Yankee Doodle Choir.” We are slated to perform right before the fireworks show at our neighborhood community center, and if the group is a success, we may take our show on the road next year. I am arming all the singers with swag to throw out to the crowd in as incentive to cheer enthusiastically for the fledgling crooners. I found the very patriotic USA Man in Rush Imprint’s vast inventory and I’m pretty confident it will inspire clap-inducing patriotism in the hearts of the most blasé Americans.
In researching songs for our repertoire, I came across some interesting facts I thought you might enjoy. For instance, you probably know that Francis Scott Key originally wrote the “Star-Spangled Banner” as a poem during the War of 1812, but you might not know that the tune is sung to a British drinking song. Another famous song, “America,” the one that begins, “My country ‘tis of thee…” gets it’s melody from England’s, “God Save the Queen.” I also discovered that, prior to the outbreak of the American Revolution, Redcoats sang “Yankee Doodle” to mock the shabbily shod colonials they came across while fighting the French & Indian War. “Doodle” was a word used to mean, “fool” or “dunce” and “macaroni” referred to the fussy, fancy style of Italian clothing often worn by British dandies. Meant to be sung through the nose, with a West Country drawl and dialect, the Brits thought they were putting the Americans in their place. Of course, the upstart Americans adopted the song as their rallying cry. We Americans have always found a way to put our own unique spin on things and creating songs is no exception.
One of the most popular anthems, “America the Beautiful” was written by Katherine Lee Bates in 1893. A cross-country trip inspired her to take notes on her impressions and then she turned the images of purple mountain sand endless skies into four stanzas of verse. “The Congregationalist” published her musings in 1895, Silas Pratt eventually set it to music and the rest is history. John Philip Sousa’s, “The Stars and Stripes Forever” is, by act of Congress, the official march of the United States. What you might not know, unless you read the best seller, “Water for Elephants,” the song is played by live bands at the circus as a signal that a life-threatening emergency is happening. It serves as a code for personnel to start evacuating without scaring the audience. Finally, Woody Guthrie penned “This Land is Your Land” after he tired of hearing Kate Smith’s “God Bless America” on the radio. It worked; in1940 his song knocked hers off the charts.
Finding all of these fascinating factoids reminded me how much I appreciate the everyday freedoms living in the good ole U.S.A. affords me each and every day. So, today’s lesson is simple, be grateful for what you’ve got (and put your name on it!). That one never gets old! Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans!